Legion Post Named After County World War I Soldier
people, history, miscellaneous
The local American Legion Post 12 is named in honor of Jesse M. Dykes, Jr. His name also appears on a plaque on the front of the courthouse and on the monument in the courthouse yard. Do you know who this man was, who was so honored?
The son of Jesse M. Dykes, Richmond's city collector, Jesse, Jr. grew up in Richmond. He went to the U.S. Army in 1917, after our country entered World War I. After basic training, he was originally assigned to the U.S. Army 153rd Infantry Regiment. On September 22, 1918, however, Dykes was transferred as a replacement to the 126th Infantry, 32nd Division of the American Expeditionary Forces, which was fighting against the German army in France.
The 126th was at that time involved in fierce continual combat in the Argonne Forest, one of the most important battlegrounds in the war, with both sides sustaining heavy losses. On October 4, only a few days after reporting as a replacement to the 126th, while engaged in combat near the French town of Somagne, Dykes was struck by a machine gun bullet which passed through his head, killing him instantly. His body was buried there, along with a number of other U.S. soldiers who were slain at that same time. Dykes became the first World War I casualty from Madison County. By the end of the war, 42 more of Madison County's young men had also lost their lives.
After the initial telegram notifying them of the death of Dykes, his parents received a letter from the A.E.F. Graves Registration Service informing them that their son's body was buried in a permanent military cemetery in Commune (county) Cierges, Meuse, (province), France.
On Feb. 11, 1919, a chaplain of the 126th wrote a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Dykes reporting details of their son's death that were known. “I did not know your son,” wrote Lt. C.F. Acree, the chaplain, "but have no doubt as to his bravery, heroism, and devotion to a great cause."
The Richmond Daily Register of March 22, 1919, reprinted the entire contents of that chaplain's letter on its front page in honor of Madison County's first fallen soldier of World War I.
Dr. Robert Grise
Dr. Robert Grise, “Legion Post Named After County World War I Soldier,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed June 7, 2019, http://library-old.eku.edu/blogs/digital/items/show/2345.
Additional Commentary by Tom McHone
The Jesse M. Dykes Post 12, American Legion, has had a long and honorable past. After the American Legion was organized, a group of leading veterans of Richmond, Kentucky community decided to apply for a post charter in August 1919.
The Post number 12 was awarded on August 19,1919, indicating that this would be the 12th Post chartered in Kentucky. The Post's name, Jesse M. Dykes, was in honor of the first Madison County soldier killed in action in WWI. Jesse M. Dykes was killed in the Argonne Forest, France October 4, 1918. He was buried in France and later re-interred in the Richmond Cemetery, October 2, 1921, with Military Honors. Thousands of people line Main Street to pay their respects to a soldier who had lost his life fighting for humanity. The Members of Jesse M. Dykes Post 12 took their place marching beside the casket as the honor guard and tribute to their comrade.
The local veterans were very excited and exuberant about the new veteran's organization. They chose Lt. Harry D. Rice as their spokesman in securing Post 12 charter and also to chair the first called meeting, August 20,1919, consisting of 15 members. For Rice's leadership role, he was honored by being the first elected Commander of Post 12. The officers elected to Post 12 were:
Harry D. Rice - Commander
D. W. Kennedy - Vice Commander
Spears Turley - Adjutant
Joe P. Chenault - Historian
Paul Burnam - Finance
Willie Elder - Master of Arms
The 15 members present at the first meeting were for organizational purposes. The Post grew rapidly, and it was hoped that most of the 2000 men who served in WWI would ultimately join the Legion. After WWII the membership reached 735.
The American Legion is the largest veteran's organization in the United States. The main interest of the American Legion is to advance the well being of veterans of all wars, especially health care of disabled veterans and non-disabled veterans, facilities permitting.
The Legion goal is to promote the American way of life on the local, regional, state and national level. The Legion has been a leader in educational, charitable and patriotic programs.